The following interview with HealthMarkets insurance agent Susan Sundberg has been edited for clarity. This interview was conducted in person and through email.
In September of 2015, we had the opportunity to interview Susan Sundberg, an independent HealthMarkets agent. As an agent, she is an entrepreneur and a small business of her own. Although Susan did not start her career path as an insurance agent, she found it a rewarding choice. Not only could she support herself and her family, she could help other small business owners with their employer health insurance needs. To learn more about how Susan does it, read on.
HealthMarkets: How long have you been an agent?
Sundberg: I have been an insurance agent for 13 years this coming February (2016).
HealthMarkets: How did you get into the “small business” business?
Sundberg: Well, when I became an insurance agent and joined HealthMarkets, I became a small business myself. My family had always owned and run a business, and I grew up working in that family business. So, it’s a family tradition, a history, and where I made my living as I grew up and then went off to college. So, I am a small business, and I come from a small business.
HealthMarkets: After becoming an insurance agent, did you immediately start working with employer health insurance, or was that a process?
Sundberg: It was a process. I worked for 22 years in corporate America. The company I worked for was one of the top three employers in the Kansas City area, and they went bankrupt and put all of us out on the street looking for work. The first thing that I did was, of course, look for health insurance. That exhaustive research brought me to this company, HealthMarkets.
After finding my own insurance, it occurred to me that there were a lot of people searching for solutions, and there were very few who were well-equipped to help.
I’ve got to admit, my bias was there wouldn’t be an ethical company in all of insurance. Immediately I realized, once I was inside the organization, that they were ethical all the way to the top. Then, there was no reason for me to really ever look anywhere else.
HealthMarkets: Have you always worked with small businesses in the health insurance industry, or did you start with individuals looking for insurance or Medicare?
Sundberg: I started working with business owners from the beginning. My primary customer, when I first started my business here, was a husband and wife with two kids who owned a business.
Now of course, that led to individuals and the growing number of those who are Medicare eligible. But small business owners were my focus and who happened to be asking the questions. In my experience, an individual is better served when that person is helped through his or her employer.
HealthMarkets: How do you show business owners their possible employer health insurance solutions?
Sundberg: Business owners are focused. They need to put solutions in perspective in terms of people they individually know and need to help. That is how we work, at the individual level. The first priority is to answer the questions of who we are, who we represent, and what value we bring.
The next objective is to understand exactly what an employer is trying to accomplish with benefits. Whether it is to reduce the cost of recruiting and retention or to attract the right mid-level managers for growth, we have a scientific way of gathering needs so we don’t miss anything important.
It is wonderful to be in a position to represent many insurance company options and have the state certifications, licensing, and training to make sure we take full advantage of the changes in the law.
After the needs and options are understood, solutions are designed and implemented. We are in a position to help every employee.
HealthMarkets: After you’ve met with the small business owner and discussed his or her employer health insurance solution, you also meet with the employees, correct? How do you conduct those meetings?
Sundberg: You start a relationship again. Who are you? Who do you represent? The employees ask the same questions the business owners do.
That’s why it’s so great to be able to treat a business owner a lot like you treat the employees. You do the same thing. “Let’s design a package of benefits.” Now, you’re digging into their real lives. What are their concerns? What do they think is the number one thing that will send them to the hospital? Family history and all those things. You’re uncovering needs and designing plans individually.
HealthMarkets: Group health insurance is the status quo when it comes to benefits packages. However, HealthMarkets agents can help businesses with both group and individual health insurance plans. What would you say to small businesses that can’t afford group health insurance but think an individualized option would be even more expensive?
Sundberg: The thing that’s in the mind of a lot of business owners is “cheaper by the dozen,” right? They go to the grocery store every day, and they get that reinforced. It’s just peeling that onion back about this myth and misunderstanding. When a CEO sees individual options for their right-hand person, themselves and a representative employee, myths are replaced with fact and an informed decision is made.
HealthMarkets: Is there anything you’d like to add that I missed or we haven’t discussed? For example, your perspective as an agent when you’re working with these small businesses and helping them create solutions for their employer health insurance needs?
Sundberg: I treat them like I want to be treated. I also treat the employees like I want my employees to be treated because I am an invited partner here. It’s just like inviting someone into your home. We have a common interest: the success of the business.
What would I want to know in this situation? What’s important for me to see, and how would I understand this best? What’s a waste of my time, and what’s a valuable thing to spend my time on? Is there a better way for me? I enjoy working with business owners because they’re very unique. They are used to long-term relationships with their insurance providers. They know what they’re looking for, and they’ve always understood that insurance should be for catastrophic things. Other products are used to handle the financial exposure. There is so little explanation that needs to go on.
They’re just so easy to serve. They’re decisive. They’re focused. They’re benevolent. They care about their employees, and they want to do the right thing.
Susan Sundberg Is What HealthMarkets Is all About
Susan has had years of experience with health insurance for employers. She cares about her business and the small businesses she helps day in and day out. If you’re looking for employer health insurance, even if Susan isn’t located near you, HealthMarkets can help. We have agents located nationwide to help you find a solution that suits your employees, your budget, and your coverage needs. Call HealthMarkets today at (800) 976-5818.